More than 100 Syrians were killed Friday in what is being called a massacre in Houla, near the flashpoint of Homs.
Among the 108 reported dead, almost 80 were women and children who were, according to the United Nations, executed in their homes. Another 30 or so people died from artillery fire that was directed the town.
In response to the executions and continued flouting of the international peace plan, several western nations have shutdown diplomatic relationships with Syria, expelling that country's diplomats. So far, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Switzerland, among others, have all ordered Syria's diplomats out of the country, according to various media reports.
Meanwhile, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday and was assured that the Syrian government was going to investigate the massacre. But western countries were unconvinced that Assad's promises meant anything, more than a month after he promised to implement a U.N.-backed cease fire agreement that remains mostly an idea.
In Houla, survivors and foreign peacekeepers reported a grizzly scene, where people were killed at close range by knives and gunfire.
"Eyewitnesses told the BBC that pro-government shabiha militiamen had carried out the killings. Survivors said they had hidden or played dead," the British broadcaster wrote. "Syrian leaders insist that the massacre was the work of "terrorists", aiming to derail the peace process and provoke intervention by Western powers."
Some 50 more people reportedly died in violent clashes on Tuesday. More than 9,000 people have died in the Syrian revolt since it began more than a year, according to United Nations estimates that are months old.
Bridget Kendall, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, said there's no way to know whether the coordinated diplomatic protest would change anything on the ground in the Middle Eastern nation, but western countries are quickly running out of tools to use to try and bring the situation to a peaceful resolution.
Over the weekend, Russia and China signed off on the strongest effort yet, a United Nations resolution denouncing the Houla massacre, but still there's been no action taken to try and end the revolution.
According to The New York Times, Annan's bringing new force to the effort to get his peace plan implemented, with buy-in from all of the permanent members of the Security Council.
Russia's support is seen as critical to any hopes of ending the crisis. The country has been an impediment to any concrete action that might threaten the stability of its allies in Damascus.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was prepared with military options should they be needed to bring about a resolution in Syria. But so far, there seems to be no appetite for such action.
“There is always a military option, but that military option should always be wielded carefully,” General Dempsey said on Fox News. “Because one thing we’ve learned about war, I have learned personally about war, is that it has a dynamic all its own — it takes on a life of its own.”